Sacred Cows

Dave Farcas

Among Christians who are fond of casting stones with biblical proof texts at those who do not share their belief systems or concepts of righteous living; it is a curious fact that they take great pains to avoid the hard sayings of Jesus. They search hard and long for scripture that appear to substantiate their exclusive and narrow concept of God. They will gather together selected "proof texts" to target and condemn a particular group of nonbelievers and "sinners": In the Middle Ages it was the Jews, in 19th Century America it was the blacks, today its homosexuals. They eagerly point out the verses that seem to speak of eternal damnation by a God who is primarily a God who excludes others.

But the hard sayings of Jesus that challenge the sacred cows of Christians are conveniently ignored or explained away as not meaning what they say. On the other hand, obscure verses that seem to condemn homosexuals are focused on because they support an agenda of prejudice against those who are different. I would like to look at the hard sayings of Jesus that challenge the sacred cows of "family values" and exclusive relationships.

"If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

The Historical/Social Context: In the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, the word "hate" is used to cover all attitudes that are not love: indifference, detached from, not preferring someone or hating. In first century Palestine the Jews had very strong group solidarity. The basic social unit was the family - the extended family that included all relatives. They strongly identified themselves with one another. The harm done to one member of the family was felt by all. Any one could say to an outsider, "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me." This solidarity was also extended to one's friends and one's co-workers; individualism was virtually unknown.

Implications : For Jesus the kingdom of Satan is based on the exclusive and selfish solidarity of groups, whereas God's kingdom is based on the all-inclusive solidarity of the human race. "You have learned how it was said: you must love your neighbor (group) and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies: (Matt 5:43-44). This statement was received as radical and scandalous. In the Old Testament to love your neighbor, as yourself is to experience group solidarity. Only someone in your group is to be treated as another "self." Outsiders and enemies were not to be loved.

Today, the implications of Jesus' vision of the true human society is still hard for most us to swallow. The tragic irony is that the followers of Jesus abandoned his vision of an all-inclusive society by establishing various Christian cults. The definition of cult that I am using here is not the pejorative definition used by many Christians to label those who a have unorthodox beliefs and lifestyles. The definition I am using is the one used by sociologists and historians: members of a religious cult who are clearly defined and demarcated from the rest of humanity, who have a belief system and lifestyle that prevents them from socializing with or accepting those outside the cult. This definition of cult applies to most Christian churches and to other non-Christian religions as well.

Jesus said, "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. (Luke 6:27-28).

"If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them: (Lk. 6:32).

Loving those who love you or whom you find loveable, likeable and attractive is no virtue. Jesus is advocating an all-inclusive love and acceptance that is not dependent on being loveable or desirable. He is saying that the coming new reality of God (the kingdom) is a society of non-exclusive relationships. He is not saying that the one should "hate" one's family/group, he is advocating the replacement of the group solidarity of the family with universal, inclusive solidarity (acceptance) with all humankind-everyone. So one's family is included in this new solidarity because they too are human beings. They are not to be loved just because they happen to be relatives, but because they are persons, who will be loved, not merely preferred. This is person to person solidarity, an I-thou relationship.

Jesus dealt with each individual person he encountered in such a way so that nobody was excluded and everybody was accepted for their own sake and not for the sake of their ancestry, race, nationality, class, family connections, intelligence, achievements or any other quality. For this reason Jesus sided with the "nobodies" and "discarded" people who had nothing to recommend them except their humanity.

To be a Christian you only need to ascribe to a particular belief system that usually entails excluding others. On the other hand to be a disciple of Christ you need to obey the hard sayings of Jesus and do like he did. You need to extend your self indiscriminately to others without any preconditions. Christians are concerned primarily with orthodoxy (correct doctrine); a disciple of Christ is focused on orthopraxis (right living) - -living as Jesus lived. For in a very profound and real way we are all in this together, no matter whom we are. Even science tells us that every human on the planet descended from a common ancestor(s), out of Africa, about 200,000 years ago. God identifies with all his creatures; everything that exists in the universe is the result of God giving His life to the creation. Jesus is the first real human and in him is the embodiment of the unshakable solidarity between God and the universe. The relationship between Jesus and Abba, and Jesus and the people he encountered is the defining truth of reality. This relationship is the image of God: Godself loving the other - unconditionally.